Monday, May 11, 2015

One paddle, two paddle

One paddle this weekend, one paddle last weekend, and one the week before, in fact (season opener, where I forgot to take my camera)! Back in the saddle again. I'll have to skip next weekend, that's when the folks from the Polynesian Voyaging Society will be here and even though I'm not an educator, I'm actually planning to attend all three events (click here for details), but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we have nice weather on at least the 24th, because I hope to have my first sail of 2015 that day, when the Sailing Committee holds the first cruise of the season. They've actually been having a Spring Racing Series, and there were at least a couple of those I could've joined in on (not too windy, I mean) but I did want to join the kayak cavalcade on Opening Day, and since TQ will be back on his summer schedule of working weekends soon, I'm glad we got a couple of good paddles together in here before that starts.

I especially enjoy getting sequential paddles in this time of year, when the bay is making the big spring transition, which is such a glorious thing to watch. With thirty people on the Opening Day paddle, I wasn't paying as much attention to the surroundings as I was to catching up with the friends who came out, but we did see that the Canarsie Pol ospreys were back, and the cherry tree by the ramp to the dock was looking very beautiful. Fortunately I mentioned how much I usually like to take pictures when that happens to one of the sailors, and Lissa was kind enough to take out her phone and get a few shots for me. Beautiful! I'm always a little amazed by this cherry tree - it ends up standing in a little bit of salt water every time we get a particularly high tide, and yet it seems to do fine. Tough little tree. 

Such fine weather for the season opener. 

Lovely weather the next weekend, too. TQ and I went out around Ruffle Bar; it was low low water so Ruffle Bar was extra-big; mapping out what I think we did, it came to a little under 8 miles. The water was a little bit warmer; the really notable thing was the massive flock of brants off of Canarsie Pol. We think that they must have just gotten in from somewhere to the south en route their summer nesting grounds and were exhausted; usually brants are rather skittish birds, it's very hard to approach them a kayak and not have the entire flock take to the air with a roar of beating wings and alarmed "hrrrrnk hrrrnk"s. One of my early paddling mentors taught his students that when paddling among waterfowl, your goal should be to stay far enough away from them that they don't take off. With a big flock of brants in Jamaica Bay, that's hard to do, because they'll stretch out across the water as far as you can see. We think these guys must just have been totally wiped out, because they were just swimming fast to to get out of our way. Every now and then two or three would go airborne, but they'd land again just a few yards away and the rest of the flock stayed on the water.

Coming back, we had these little surf waves that TQ's Sparrowhawk just loves, and he went surfing off ahead of me - I realized as he went off that the flock was doing the bare minimum to move to the side ahead of him, leaving a basically brant-free corridor behind him - I followed and there were birds to the left and birds to the right, but not one flew as I went by. 

Yesterday, TQ and I did another very straightforward paddle. If you saw yesterday's post, Foggy Day in Jamaica Bay, you already saw my favorite picture from the day. It was one of those spring days that's actually tricky to dress for - the air temperature wasn't that high, didn't quite get up to 70, but the high humidity made you feel very warm very quickly if you were moving around at all. I ended up in my Farmer Jane wetsuit and a rashguard, with a short-sleeved nylon windbreaker top AND a long sleeved jacket ready to go if necessary. TQ actually put on a paddling jacket while we were getting ready and a minute later changed his mind. It was that weird a day.

We launched around 1. A larger group had launched at 11; we got back just after they did and although we'd seen some fog, it sounds like it had lightened up quite a bit - the larger group had set out planning to go to West Pond, in the  Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Broad Channel Island, but when they came out from under the bridge, they changed their plan to a trip that hugged the shore, because they couldn't see across the bay. I'd been sort of thinking the same thing when I suggested that we head for the bridge instead of out into the bay - also, I hadn't been past the bridge in a long time and I do like to get out to where things open up a bit. Conditions were so quiet that you didn't have that sense of a bigger swell that you sometimes get when you pass the inlet, but it was still nice to get out there.

Again, measuring it out, I think we did just under 10 miles, out from under the bridge and around the corner into Dead Horse Bay, then back.

We've still got loons - one surfaced right next to my boat as we were heading out, I mean, like, a foot from the side of my boat, I'm not sure which of us was more surprised! I was laughing hysterically (loonily, you might even say), the loon scuttled off to a safe distance and glared at me. I would argue that it is the one who is coming up from underwater who is responsible for making sure that their surfacing area is clear of vessel traffic (my dad would know that, he's a retired submariner), but I also suspect that waterfowl don't read the Rules of the Road. I'm wondering if the white hull of my boat was hard for the loon to see against the grey of the sky as she was coming up, I've never had a bird come up that close to me before. 

There seemed to be a much smaller number of brants, last week's huge flock has probably moved on. The terns are back in force, though - I think we saw one or two last week, this week they were everywhere.

And speaking of things coming back, it seems that the boat lift operators at the marinas and clubs have been busy - even on a foggy drizzly day like this, I think we saw four times as many motorboats out as we saw on that sparkly sunny day the week before. The time of having the bay to ourselves is definitely over until next Fall. So long solitude, here comes Summer!

Back at TQ's, I made dinner (well, I reheated some homemade pasta sauce and boiled up some rotini) and we toasted the day with a most unusual beer! Quite good, actually - I wasn't sure what to expect but it turns out that Iron Maiden makes a pretty tasty refreshing adult beverage. Who knew? 


clairesgarden said...

I'm laughing at the beer.. what an idea!

bonnie said...

Isn't that funny? TQ found a beer store with a huge selection out on the Rockaway Peninsula, where he works in the off-season. I hope he makes another trip or two there before they switch him to the pool, I enjoy trying new beers.

This was especially entertaining, though! I mostly took the picture for a friend from high school who is a big heavy metal fan and also happens to like a good beer, but then I just couldn't resist posting it here, too.